How to prepare for a trip to The Philippines?

Although preparing yourself for travel is different for everyone, here are some general guidelines for your trip to The Philippines. Please feel free to add your personal advice in the Comment & Contributions section.

Arrange a flight

For cheap flights, it is always best to book far in advance, the cheapest seats are always sold out first. Good hotels have airport pickups from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. There is a Grab Booth outside the bigger airports, so you can book a taxi without hassle, I am always happy myself to have less hassle, the difference in price is minimal and definitely worth it. Found a cheap flight? Donate the money you saved to your preferred carbon compensation funds or find a more personal way to compensate your impact, like voluntourism.

Get your medical files in order with all vaccinations and malaria prophylaxes stated

Before you leave you should consult your travel doctor about vaccinations and malaria prophylaxes. Tell them where you will be staying and how long, they will need this information.

Arrange your insurance

You need to have a travel-, health- and (when applicable) activities insured.  Some insurances do not cover incidents if you are volunteering abroad or don't cover trips that last longer than 30 days. Talk to your insurance adviser or contact the insurance experts of JoHo Insurances. Better be prepared well, since it is hard to arrange it, once already on the move.

You will need a visa

  • You will need to have a passport that is valid at least 6 months upon arrival in the Philippines. A visa is not required if you stay 30 days or less. If you stay more than 30 days, you will need a visa, which you can get either at the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines (see below) or at the Embassy of the Philippines in your country of residence.
  • When coming in on a 30-day visa, you can extend your visa in the Philippines by applying for an extension of the visa at the office of the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros, Manila or at their regional offices all over Metro Manila (Makati Circuit Mall). Please check the Bureau’s websit for more information. They are closed on holidays. When the immigration office is located in the mall, the mall is closed before opening time, but the Immigration Office is already open, you have to ask the guard, if you can enter and go into a seemingly closed mall. 

Arrange your money

  • The unit of currency in the Philippines is the peso, which is also spelled piso in Filipino.
  • The smartest way to bring cash to the Philippines is in the form of a credit card, cash card or debit card. Provided you have your PIN, you can use these to get cash or cash advances from thousands of banks and ATMs in the Philippines (but don't expect to find these in rural areas - always stock up on cash before leaving a city). Of course, you will want to back up your plastic with some cash and travellers cheques. Using plastic with a cash back-up will save you from having to deal with local moneychangers, who seem to have made a science out of ripping off tourists (warning from the Lonely Planet). The advantage of money changers is, that you dont have to pay the bank currency exchange rates and an extra fee of around 200-300 PHP every time you use the ATM. 
  • The leading banks in the Philippines are BDO, BPI, Metrobank, Landbank and RCBC.
  • Banks are open from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM and ATMs are open 24 hours. The maximum amount you can withdraw from the ATM is different per branch at BDO and BPI per transaction with a maximum of PHP10,000-20,000, Citibank Makati PHP15,000 and HSBC PHP40,000. Depending on your own maximum for cash out of an ATM limit a day. At the Citibank, you don't have to pay the extra foreign bank fee. Make sure your ATM is set on using your card outside of Europe. 

Arrange your communication

  • When you stay a longer period of time, it is very handy to use a local simcard, most of the time free at the airport booths. You have two main choices: Globe or Smart. When you have a local card, you can use the WIFI in malls, with your foreign number you are not able to use the WIFI. 

Read about the Philippines

For the touristic highlights and places to stay & eat there's a good selection of travel guides such as:

  • Lonely Planet
  • Footprint
  • Marco Polo

Other books you can read about the Philippines are:

Jose Rizal

  • Noli Me Tangere
  • El Filibusterismo

Nick Joaquin

  • La Naval de Manila and Other Essays (1964)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1966)

F. Sionil Jose

  • Rosales Saga novels: five-novel series that spans three centuries of Philippine history, widely read around the world and translated into 22 languages

Niklas Reese

  • Handbook of the Philippines: A comprehensive introduction to Philippine society, economy, politics and culture. It aims to shed light to the different facets of life (and of daily struggles and survival) in the Philippines.

What to pack into your bag?

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Print of your outbound ticket (to be shown at the airport of departure)
  • Vaccination booklet
  • Cash money
  • ATM card
  • Travel guide
  • Language guide
  • Reading books
  • Camera
  • Bag/suitcase
  • Labels
  • Day bagpack
  • Money belt (and or travel safe)
  • Locks for your bag
  • Toilet bag
  • Toothbrush/paste/soap/shampoo/comb, disinfectant soap etc
  • Towel
  • Ear plugs
  • Sunscreen high factor
  • Sunglasses/cap
  • Mosquito repellent (and mosquito net)
  • Medical kit, although almost everything is also available in the Philippines: with Immodium, ORS, Paracetamol, band-aid, disinfectant, gauze & bandages etc.
  • Flip‐flops
  • Clothes: sandals, light clothes since the climate is hot and humid, socks/shirt with long sleeves and trousers for the evenings (mosquitoes), swimsuit. 
  • Laptop and mobile phone. Consider bringing a safety cable if you bring yours. Most hostels have free or paid Wi-Fi service. If you want to bring your smart phone, consider also bringing a cheaper phone for daily use.
  • In the Philippines, women hardly use tampons so if you use them you will need to bring them with you.
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